Pitt redshirt senior offensive lineman Jake Kradel played a big part in the 45-29 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Kradel and the entire offensive line created holes and time for junior running back Israel Abanikanda to exploit the Hokies defense throughout the game. He thanked his offensive line for their help throughout the game en route to a brilliant performance, which saw him rush 36 times for 320 yards and six touchdowns.
His 320 rushing yards are the most in a single game in Panthers’ history and his six rushing touchdowns tie him for the most in a single game. Quarterback Norman Bill Budd ran for six touchdowns himself in a 71-0 victory over Ohio at Forbes Field in 1910.
Abanikanda broke the previous single game rushing record of Heisman winning running back Tony Dorsett. Dorsett ran for 303 yards in a 34-20 victory over then ranked No. 9 Notre Dame at Pitt Stadium in 1975.
The 326 yards total rushing as a team are the most for Pitt since 2020, when they ran 317 yards over Georgia Tech. Now senior running back, Vincent Davis, ran for 247 yards and Abanikanda is the first Pitt player to run for over 200 yards since that game.
Kradel says that the offensive line loves to run the ball. They spent much of last season focusing on pass protection with Heisman finalist, quarterback Kenny Pickett, under center.
Now, with Abanikanda running defenses’ ragged behind this offensive line, Kradel understands how the run game propels Pitt’s attack.
“I would say so,” Kradel said post game on if Pitt is a run-first offense. “I mean I think so. I think that’s one thing we try to pride ourselves is just run the ball first and open up the passing lanes and see what happens.”
The offensive line’s performance is crucial to the Panthers’ success on offense going forward. If they keep playing like they did against Virginia Tech, the Panthers have a shot of repeating as ACC Coastal Champions and, potentially, conference champions as well.